Newly appointed Chair of the Probation Board Northern Ireland (PBNI) Dale Ashford, QFSM outlines his vision of the future pathway for the probation service amidst a challenging climate.
The Probation Board is an arms-length body of the Department of Justice. It is responsible for securing the maintenance of the probation service and determining the policies and strategic direction required for its delivery.
I am absolutely delighted to have been appointed Probation Board Chair on 1 December 2018. In the short period since my appointment I have met with senior staff, Board colleagues and a number of stakeholders. It is already clear to me that probation has a visionary senior leadership team and is delivering a service that is making a real difference to communities across Northern Ireland.
The new Board has representation from across communities in Northern Ireland and members bring experience and expertise from justice, social care, education, training, local government, and there is representation from both the private and public sector. The experience and expertise that Board members bring will help create an environment where the vital services provided by probation can continue to flourish.
Those services include supervising people subject to court orders, providing pre-sentence reports to judges to assist in sentencing, working with people released from custody to rehabilitate and resettle them into the community and providing information and restorative practices when appropriate to victims of crime. All of which are critical services that enhance community safety.
The priorities for this Board will include influencing the development and delivery of public policy on resettlement and rehabilitation. We will work closely with the Department of Justice to ensure that probation contributes to the Programme for Government outcomes, for example, through the delivery of problem-solving justice.
Over the next months the Board will have a number of engagement events. The purpose of these events is to look at the factors which are critical in supporting people away from offending, such as, access to mental health and addictions services, accommodation, and the use of restorative practices. The aim of these events is to create an opportunity for partners to consider how we can work together to ensure we have the right policy framework in place to support the delivery of effective resettlement and rehabilitation.
2019 will also see the start of our public consultation on the Corporate Plan for PBNI. The Board wants to hear from partners, service users, staff, and the wider public about how we can future proof the organisation so that staff can continue to deliver services that change lives and make communities safer.
Another important role of this Board will be to create and promote an environment where innovation can thrive. It is evident that probation staff are creative and solution focused. The introduction of the Enhanced Combination Order and interventions through problem solving courts demonstrates that creativity. The use of new technology like the ‘changing lives’ app to engage with service users and the new case management system will increase efficiency. Board members want to ensure that opportunities for innovation can be developed further.
Probation like all public services will face challenges over the coming years. These challenges include the changing nature of the demand on services and an increase in the complexity of crimes such as sexual crime and cybercrime. At the same time the resources available to meet these challenges are reducing. Therefore, there is a need to think differently about how we deliver services.
As a Board our role will be to provide accountability oversight and strategic leadership, but just as importantly it will be to support staff in the organisation who work throughout Northern Ireland, changing lives for safer communities.
T: (028) 9026 2400